Tri-State Theater

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Daddy Warbucks Gets Clipped for "Annie"

My pal Paul Neace goes the extra mile for his craft, sacrificing a head full of hair to play the part of Daddy Warbucks in Annie.

Here's the story from the Herald-Dispatch written by Dave Lavender:
His hair will grow back tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, they'll be some.

The veteran of more than 40 regional plays, actor Paul Neace is used to transforming for a role, but little prepared him for this past Tuesday night. His hair stylist of nearly 20 years, Sheila Austin got more than a little heavy-handed shearing and shaving the abundantly, curly-headed actor for his starring role as Daddy Warbucks in the Huntington Outdoor Theatre’s summer production of Annie.

Annie will be performed at 8:30 nightly tonight through Sunday, as well as July 9-11, 16-18 and 23-25 at the Ritter Park Amphitheater.

Tickets are $16 and $15 for seniors 65 and older and children ages 5-12. Children under 5 are admitted free.

Gates open at 6:30 p.m. for picnicking. Concessions are also available. Bring lawn chairs or blankets.

Under the giant tulip poplar tree in the Amphitheater's seating area, a crowd gathered Tuesday with such H.O.T. veterans as Helga Thorn, props, and Helen Freeman, director, providing running color commentary as the shearing began.

"Are you ready?" Austin asked with the clippers purring ready for action.

"How do you get ready for this?" There's maybe two in the world I would do this for - Lil and you," Neace said to Freeman.

"I think you're going to look pretty," Freeman teased as Paul's wife Lil Neace smiled nervously.

"I wouldn't go as far as that," Thorn said. "If she goes any shorter he's going to look like a bowling ball."

"Well, I guess we can also do 'The King and I' now too," Freeman said laughing of the role made famous by the shaved headed actor Yul Brynner.

Neace, who has been in a handful of H.O.T. productions and who has done tons of work with Fifth Avenue Theater (where he is on the board), said shaving both his head and his trademark goatee is just part of show business.

"If you want authentic then it's got to go," Neace said of the hair and facial hair. "It's got to look like 1932."

Freeman said it is this type of team spirit and gusto that has helped H.O.T. pull together its show a week early, and noticeably short-handed.
Freeman, who is aided by her two sons working tech and her husband Steve, who designs and oversees the building of the H.O.T. sets, is working this year without the usual roles of co-founder Patti Shaver and choreographer, Patty Freeman, both of whom are out this summer due to family health issues.

Stepping up big-time this summer is Kerri Easter, who is not only choreographing the main show, but also directing the pre-show as well.

While this year’s production is beginning a week early at the request of the Cabell Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau to coincide with the 2010 US Youth Soccer Region I Championships, Freeman said it was a challenge they've met even if its meant exhausting evening rehearsals that have run as long as a regular work day.

With a cast of about two dozen singing their lungs out to the Taste of Broadway pre-show that features songs from each of H.O.T.’s 16 previous seasons, Neace said there's something electric about being surrounded by so many people so dedicated to a common purpose - the show.

"So many of these kids have went from pre-show to real adult roles, and it's all about them,” he said. “I can't imagine doing this without a cast this dedicated. The time and effort they've put in is just tremendous. I mean when I was their age I think I was melting Army men onto ants," Neace said with a laugh. " ... Doing 12 straight shows seems a bit foreboding but we're looking forward to it."

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